Final Reflections

leaving OsakaFrom Linda: The PVBC Osaka Missions Team 2016 has just returned from Japan, and I would like to share some of my final reflections on our trip. We are so grateful to God, our families and friends, and our PVBC church family for giving us this opportunity to serve in Japan. It truly was a team effort, not just for our own missions team, but for our entire team of supporters who partnered with us through prayer and financial donations. Special thanks to Amanda, my co-administrator, and to our team: Kent, Janet, Jessica, Sharon, Kimi, Scott, Cody, Brandon, Naomi, and Matthew.

building relationships

This summer was my third trip to Suita Bible Gospel Church to help with their VBS program. Each year God called just the right people according to his purpose. The first two trips established a great partnership with SBGC in developing a solid VBS program which included songs, skits, Bible lessons, crafts, games, other fun activities. This year, God really put a burden on my heart to make a connection with the parents who bring their children to VBS. In the past, we didn’t really have an opportunity to get to know the parents and felt that there was a need to build relationships between new parents and SBGC members, so they would feel comfortable bringing their children back to church after VBS was over.

In her blog, Sharon wrote about her seminar on “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The attendees seemed to really enjoy it, especially the card-making craft that followed. It was great to see a couple of the pastors even join in on the activity!

seminar momsEarlier that same day, I was able to present a seminar entitled “Lessons on Learning: Educating Children in the 21st Century.”  Through my talk and PowerPoint presentation, I touched on ways children learn, trends in American education, and things parents can do at home to help their children maximize their learning potential. Special thanks to Masako for helping to translate my presentation and handouts into Japanese before our trip! It was encouraging to see Lesson on Learning seminarthe parents so engaged in the information that was presented. Pastor O. even mentioned in our team debrief that it was surprising to see so many moms asking questions after the presentation, as they usually remain pretty quiet during discussions. Even up until our last day in Osaka, I was still having conversations with parents regarding their children’s learning!

JunkoOn our final day of VBS we had another opportunity to interact with the parents. While the children were in VBS, Junko sang 8-9 songs for the moms, then gave her very moving testimony in Japanese. Having grown up in Osaka, she was able to share a special bond with the parents as she told of her former insecurities coming to America from the Land of the Rising Sun and finding her worth in the Risen Son. Following Junko’s mini-concert, I was able to give a short presentation and group 4demonstration of how to make spam musubi (to go along with our Hawaiian theme).  Surprisingly, only one mom had ever tasted spam, and none had ever heard of spam musubi! They enjoyed making the musubi in small groups, then eating them together over lunch. I was able to spend time getting to know many of the moms and encouraging them to continue to attend the church.

On our last day in Osaka, I led the team devotional from John 15:16- You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

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Scott shares his testimony in English and Japanese

This is an excerpt from my message to our team: In looking at the first part of the verse, it says “you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you” it was interesting that, for the first time, I was asked a number of times during this trip about the process of selecting the members of our missions team. While this process of filling out an application, submitting your testimony, and going through the interview process was important, it wasn’t the missions committee or the team leaders who ultimately chose this team, but it was God who chose and appointed each one of you for His specific purpose. You each brought your own God-given set of skills and talents to this team and you each played an important role in the success of this mission.

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Matt and Scott lead us in worship

The next part of the verse says: “…that we should go and bear fruit.”  God chose you and sent you on this mission to bear fruit. Galatians 5:22 reminds us that if we are led by the spirit, we will bear such fruit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

team bonding

A little team bonding

Throughout this past week and even before we arrived in Osaka, there was evidence of bearing such fruit: whether it was demonstrating love, kindness, and gentleness with the VBS kids, or radiating pure joy as we sang and danced to the catchy VBS songs, practicing faithfulness by participating in our team devotionals and faithfully updating our blog posts or finally, by exercising patience, peace, and self-control as we interacted with one another and learned to flex when things didn’t go as expected.

The next part of the verse says: …”that your fruit should abide,” According to the NIV translation “that your fruit should abide” means fruit that will last. The seeds of these fruits have been planted in the hearts of those we met here in Osaka and will continue in you, as well. My encouragement to you is to always remember the faithfulness of God in calling you to this mission.

Philippians 1:3-6

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Some of my closing thoughts to SBGC and to our PVBC supporters:

Being part of a missions team has been a special privilege. We have had the opportunity to bond as a team, grow in our personal faith, and be exposed to new cultural experiences. I am sure God called me to Japan, because as a fourth generation Japanese American, I didn’t even know the difference between yakiniku and okonomiyaki! But most importantly, we were able to share the gospel message with so many children through VBS, as well as minister to the parents and the JS group through a number of seminars and activities.

Although God blessed us with a great team this year, it really doesn’t take any special talents or credentials to serve on a missions team, but just a willingness to serve.

Isaiah 6:8 says- Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

I encourage you all to be open to God’s calling on your heart to serve in the mission field, whether it be overseas in another country or here in the US. Are you willing to say: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

You will surely be blessed, as we have been.

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Immeasurable Gifts

Konnichiwa from Jessica!

I want to say a few quick things about the Japanese culture.  I’ve noticed that the Japanese give a lot of gifts.  Japan’s culture of gift-giving is unmatched throughout the world.  No one else gives gifts as frequently as the Japanese.  They even have two days of the year, called, “Ochuugen” and “Oseibo” where they give gifts even though it isn’t anyone’s birthday or anniversary.  The stores are full of items that you can give as gifts.  Many of you may already know about “omiyage.”  These are the gifts that you bring back from a country that you just visited.

But I also found out about another gift in Japan.  There is also a gift you bring when you visit someone’s house called, “Temiyage.”   Temiyage is used to show gratitude for letting someone visit your house or when you visit another person’s house.  They they in turn, may give you a gift when you leave.  So you can see where a person will give, then receive, then give in a never ending cycle.

These gifts reminded me of God’s gift for us. When some someone gives you a gift, you’re not expected to give something back in return.  If we did, there would be a strange never ending cycle of gifts and people will be wondering why you have so many gifts.  In God’s case, His gift is the gift of salvation.  It is written in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not by works. So that no one can boast.”   God’s gift is the greatest gift!  A gift paid for by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

This Osaka missions trip has given me the gift of joy.  I’m happy that I get to contribute to God’s plan and I get to share God’s gift with others around the world.  And on this trip, I learned that we aren’t coming  for ourselves, but for God.  And I am happy to get to come back here once again through God’s power.  Here are some examples of the “Joy” I experienced during my VBS trip:

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Here are some of the VBS kids having a great time!

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Here I am in a water balloon fight having fun with the kids. The look of joy on our faces shows that we’re having a good time!

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Hangin’ with the VBS Skit Crew!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Roman 15:13

Joyfully, Jessica

Dabbing my Way Through VBS

Hey everyone it’s kimi here 🙂

Just to make this blog a little more fun, here’s a little game. If you can count how many people dab in my blog you get a prize when I come back home. Hahah GOOD LUCK !!!!

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This week God put me in charge of crafts along with Naomi for VBS. The crafts were all so fun, I even made some crafts with the kids. The first day the kids made Fruit Loop Leis with flowers and straws, we didn’t realize how “American” it was of us to make crafts out of food, apparently eating your craft is a very bizarre idea. The second day the kids made cute little model magic animals to match the animal of their group, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. The animals were a three day process, molding, painting, and sealing. I was so proud to see all the creativeness and talent these kids had. Their animals put my samples to shame, what an embarrassment. To fill in the rest of the time within the three day project, the kids also got a chance to make visors (which was my favorite), tissue paper fish, and frames.

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IMG_7946This morning I led the devotional which was about the happiness of your youth which is found in Ecclesiastes. It reads, “You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let you heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all things God will bring you into judgement.” Ecclesiastes 11:9

This was a reminder of how joyful and energetic the kids were and just how excited they were to play and hear messages from God’s word. The verse shows how kids will find true happiness through receiving God’s love and because of this VBS the kids were able to learn about the gospel and hopefully want to accept Christ in the future. It was very encouraging to me since I accepted Christ at our own church VBS in 2007. It’s amazing to see how present God is in all of our lives even at a young age. I’m truly looking forward to see God continually working in these children’s lives.

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Later today we had a graduation for all the kids in VBS. During this graduation we had a mini concert from Junko who had some super fun songs (fun as in I got wayy too into it). The kids even performed some of their favorite songs of the week which were “Shine Bright” and “Pop-Up”. They were very enthusiastic and maybe even a little sweaty, but it’s alright, I was too haha. After, we had our little graduation “ceremony” which was honestly the cutest thing ever. Many of the kids spoke only japanese, so they had an asian accent when saying “I’m here” SO CUTE I was laughing the whole time. Their high soft voices made it extra adorable. IMG_7888Then, we gave them their certificates and we had a little award ceremony. This was probably one of the most interesting awards I’ve seen before. Ate the most hot dogs, Best human ladder, originally nosiest, then turned into most enthusiastic (i guess you can say that’s an upgrade). Lastly toward the end our graduation we had a party with some of the american snacks we brought, oreos, cheez-its, etc. A real wild one too I gotta admit, we broke an unspoken cultural rule, we stood while eating… CRAZYYY I KNOW you don’t have to tell me twice.

I’m so grateful for all of the people from Suita Bible Gospel Church for their hospitality, hard work, and love. I’m really going to miss all of the volunteers and kids from VBS. I’m just so thankful for God’s provisions throughout this mission trip. I feel that I don’t thank him enough for what he does for me and really what he’s done for this mission team.

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answer: 11 people dabbed
CONGRATS YOU WIN A FREE HIGH FIVE WHEN I COME BACK !!!!!

Life is Not a Box of Japanese Cherries

Konnichiwa from Osaka!

This is Janet and I’d like to start by sharing the devotional that I gave to our team today.

On the plane ride to Osaka, I watched a show called  “Taste of Japan.” The show featured special foods from different parts of Japan. One of the foods featured were cherries from Mt. Fuji. These cherries were grown in green houses and were carefully tended until they were ready to be picked.  Once ripe, they are hand-picked, meticulously inspected, and measured. Those that were without blemishes, perfectly colored, and of a specific size were arranged in wooden candy size boxes to be sold in Japanese stores. They are truly perfect cherries!

My mom was born and raised in Japan so I can identify with the values that our VBS students are taught. The Japanese value perfection and that is why it is hard for them to accept “weakness” and “imperfection” as virtues.

The first day of VBS, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy trying to connect with my VBS students because I can’t speak Japanese. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep for an hour.  As I struggled to find peace so that I could sleep, God reminded me of the following bible verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 that I had chosen to sustain me on this mission trip:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

He also reminded me of the last sermon I heard by Pastor Rene Schlaepfer before coming to Osaka. During his sermon, Pastor Rene played a movie trailer about a poor community of 2,500 families in Paraguay who built their homes on an active landfill. A man named Favio Chavez had a vision of creating a music school to bring hope to children living in this poor community. He shared his vision with a trash collector by describing these instruments that he could not buy for these children. The trash collector who had not seen these instruments before started creating them from trash found in the landfill. He first created a violin from a paint can and cake pan.  Next, he created a cello from an oil barrel, a hair brush, a heel of a shoe and a wooden spoon. You can see the trailer by searching “Landfill Harmonics” on Youtube.

While I was watching the clip, I was reminded of the saying “Someone’s trash is  someone’s treasure.”  In Pastor Rene’s sermon, he shared the following quote from Max Lucida: “The bible is full of stories of God taking people from the dumps and making them into masterpieces.”

Our weaknesses and imperfections can be used by God for His glory when we follow what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

“Life is a bowl of cherries” was a common phrase used by previous generations to describe a life that was going well but as we know, our life is not a box of Japanese cherries without Jesus Christ.

Today is the last day of VBS so our team is experiencing a wide range of emotions. “Joyfulness” seeing kids hear about how God Creates, God Helps, God Loves, God Calms and God Sends. “Sadness” that VBS has ended and we won’t be seeing these children every day. “Happiness” knowing that they had fun doing crafts, playing games and hearing bible stories. “Weariness” after five days of VBS activities and meetings. “Gladness” knowing that we accomplished our mission to share the Good News with the children of Osaka. Finally, “Hopefulness” that the bible verse “Remember that the Lord is great and awesome” (Nehemiah 4:14b) will be remembered by the children.

Below are some pictures that captured some of my favorite memories of my VBS third graders, the Dolphins:

WELCOME TO VBS!

 Yuka, Janet and Amanda waiting to greet the students arriving on Friday!

Yuka, Janet and Amanda waiting to greet the students arriving on Friday morning.

CRAFT TIME

"Kawaii" girls wearing their handmade leis.

“Kawaii” girls wearing their handmade leis.

Photobombing the girls.

Look who is trying to sneak into the picture!

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Creative minds at work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXTRA FUN TIME

Water ammunition.

Ammunition…

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Dolphins prepare for action…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Their targets: Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Abra and Charmander

SPECIAL AWARD WINNERS

Miss Active

Miss Active

Mr. Cooperation

Mister Cooperation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sayonara, Janet

Honor Thine Neighbor’s Surfboard

Konnichiwa everyone,
This is Amanda and it has been four years since I last came to Osaka. So, it’s been crazy seeing how a lot of the kids are now youth volunteers & college leaders.

I had the honor of giving our Thursday devotional to which I hope will also encourage you as well! Before VBS started, we had to borrow a couple of surfboards for our VBS skits from Shota, one of the SBGC members (And my English translator 4 years ago while in Tohoku). While I was carefully preparing the boards, God seemed to say, “Why do you have such respect for these boards versus say…your bible? Or your time with me?” I was a little taken aback by this, as my bible is about 13 years old and has traveled with me everywhere (So needless to say, it’s pretty beat up). My response was simple, “Because the boards are not mine.” Then God replied, “Neither is anything you own…What else do you take for granted?”

Shota's surfboard being featured in our Thursday skit.

Shota’s surfboard being featured in our Thursday skit.

At first, I wasn’t sure if this was a relevant question to our team as well as for the blog but God kept knudging me to do so with multiple examples and verses. The most visual and ironic example was when I had to go pick up some materials from the sanctuary late Wednesday night. Our skit for Thursday has one of the characters afraid of the dark as a comic relief (The lesson was on Jesus calming the storm and how God calms us in times of trouble). However, when I got down to the sanctuary at 8pm, it was absolutely creepy, as in there was a heavy air and zero sound from street traffic. I only had my iPhone flashlight, so if you can imagine those horror films where you see the cone of light coming from the flashlight and shining around a dark room, that’s what it was like (Even worse was walking down the dark hallway of Level 3 to get to the elevator!). I definitely was not taking flashlights for granted that night!
On a deeper level though, our team learned about how there were over 76% of the kids who weren’t normal attendees of SBGC. My dad shared there were several kids in our class that had never heard or seen the Bible. They even thought the story of baby Moses going down the river was fictional instead of fact. Hence, we had to change a few things to talk about “Biblical Basics”, such as defining sin, grace, and salvation through Jesus Christ. How often do we get an opportunity to share the Gospel like that in VBS? Being someone who grew up in the church, I knew these stories from Sunday School. In a way, I was taking my past experiences growing up in the church for granted. Seeing the children’s enthusiasm during VBS (Especially in my dad’s Bible class) was amazing because they truly were hearing it for the first time.

Bible Class Thurs

Stormy Seas in Bible Class

Another thing I take for granted is my own background. Some of the SBGC staff expressed that the “English speaking”/”Foreigner” aspect was a big draw for the  parents to allow their kids to come to VBS. At first, I was not sure whether to consider this a compliment or not. However, if being American or being able to speak English is what brings people to Christ, then I am all for it! Hence, sometimes we take our own backgrounds and abilities for granted. But God can use these “Normal-to-us” aspects about ourselves to bring others to Christ. As stated in Psalm 8:4-5: “What is man that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned them with glory and honor.” We are “a little” lower than heavenly beings, not out of their league, according to God’s ranking by just being human!

For the events outside of VBS (I.e. JS Youth event, Children and Education Session, 5 Love Languages Session, etc.), we have had more attendees (some of which were twice as expected!) come than who originally signed up- and most of the invites were by word of mouth, aka “People inviting their friends and those friends inviting more friends”. At times, we may be taking word of mouth invitations for granted as well. Some of you may recognize this from 40 days of purpose but Colossians 4:5 fits so well with what I’ve mentioned above, “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders, make the most of ever opportunity”. Therefore, my challenge to our team (And even for you!) was to think about what opportunities is God knudging us to take that we are taking for granted?
In regards to what happened during VBS Thursday, the kids had a blast reenacting the storm scene with tarp, as you saw in the earlier photo. Junko and the CBC team arrived at SBGC later in the afternoon, which was also great because the exhaustion could be seen in our whole team after debrief. The kids, on the other hand, grew more excited and comfortable with everyone each day. The girl on the right in image below is of Ririsa, one of the girls who tended to be shy/selective about active games. However, for Extra Fun Time, that was definitely not the case!

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For how the overall missions trip has been going, needless to say SBGC has been exceedingly gracious in hosting us. From sightseeing tours to home cooked dinners almost every day of VBS (As well as treating us to Yakiniku & Rarate Ramen), SBGC has made our stay here in Osaka so enjoyable. I can’t believe we just had a our graduation ceremony for the kids today and next will be our going away party! >,< So sad! We will do our best to catch up our blog with additional blog posts soon. Mata neh!

With love from Osaka

“Love one another, as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.  John 13:34-35

Greetings from Suita Bible Gospel Church! Thank you so much for prayerfully and financially supporting our mission team, including my sister Linda and daughter Kimi. I am so grateful to be here in Japan, especially since I almost didn’t make it.  As many of you know, I had emergency eye surgery just one week prior to our trip.  I thank God for providing great doctors and a speedy recovery.  My vision has been fine. I feel at peace knowing that my optometrist, Dr. Kent, is part of our mission team.

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What a blessing it is to serve with such awesome teammates!  God has put together a wonderful team with such a variety of gifts and talents.  Our host church, SBGC, has a great team of volunteers as well.  I’m the group leader for the Turtles.  A group of 20 1st and 2nd graders.  I also have five class helpers from SBGC.  We learned that only 25% of the 56 kids in VBS are from the church.  We are reaching many kids who are hearing about God and the Bible for the first time.

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Wednesday was a day filled with love.  My morning devotional for the team was based on the verse above.  I encouraged our team to pour out God’s love to the kids.  We ended our morning devotional by singing “They’ll know we are Christians by our love”.  My sister Linda and I also had the opportunity to share God’s love to the moms. Linda presented a program on American education and I did a seminar based on the book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Our host church was pleased by the response. There were over 30 moms who attended each of the seminars.

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After my talk on love languages, the moms had an opportunity to make special cards with love notes for their husbands or kids. Karen H. and her friend did a beautiful job of preparing sample cards and all the materials. It was a big hit with the moms!  The craft time was great for the moms of SBGC to connect with many newcomers.

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Our theme for VBS for the day was “God loves”.  Kent is teaching Bible stories with such creativity. The kids are learning about God in such a fun way. On Wednesday, he taught about Jesus’ baptism in costume. He even has props and sound effects.  We laughed when Jesus pulled out his cell phone because his helper asked for the sound effects!

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The kids enjoyed an American lunch of hot dogs and chips.  They usually have a bento lunch that is catered. Ponga is pictured in the foreground.  He is our liaison from SBGC.  Even though he picks on me, he’s been great to our team and brings much needed comic relief to all.

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We ended our day at an all-you-can-eat yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) restaurant with the pastoral staff from SBGC.  Some of my teammates (Cody, Brandon, Matt, Jessica, and Kimi aka “Munch”) really enjoyed being served continuous plates of meat.

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Thank you again for your prayers.  Praise God that several of the newcomers from my class want to return to church on Sundays. I  was also encouraged by moms that said they enjoyed the seminar on love languages.

With love,

Sharon

New year, new trip

Brandon here!

Being at VBS again brings a peculiar feeling of familiarity. This trip is my second to SBGC, and as we run the VBS, old memories of the 2014 VBS, the routine of the program, the kids, the JS helpers, the meals and even the very rooms in this church are coming back. This past Sunday was a series of strange encounters with adults and youth alike whom I had met on my prior two trips, but had changed in appearance and maturity since then. Most still remember me as the person who had hand-foot-mouth though….some things never change!

Speaking of which: mom & dad, I do not have hand-foot-mouth disease, I am being fed beyond belief, I have not lost either of my contacts, and I have not run out of money. Please do not worry. And now back to your regularly scheduled blog.

The routine begins early, usually a 7 AM wake-up, a daily duel against the internal clock of my inner college student. Then follows breakfast from a wide variety of Japanese cereals and toast, a morning team devotional, and the morning meeting with SBGC volunteers in the lobby. At 9 AM, the floodgates of Japanese children open and remain very much wide open straight through 3 PM, proceeding from skit to songs to verses to games to recess to games again to games for a third time to skit to songs to lunch to extra fun time. Today, the day closely followed the routine. We started with a skit, all of which were planned out by Amanda. Matt, Scott and I once again practiced worship songs with the kids (gets the adrenaline flowing). Then we led games with each of the class groups. One thing that has remained the same is the certain habits of each class group: the 4th/5th/6th graders always get the strategy behind the game and figure out the one way to bend the rules, the 3rd graders never want to stop playing the first game, and the 1st/2nd graders are more hesitant to participate with the same gusto as the earlier two groups. After a closing skit and another session of song practice, lunch with the kids takes place on the third floor, involving lots of conversation still limited to food jokes, funny faces and dancing.

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The story of baby Moses, a modern interpretation

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1st graders sporting the latest Suita fashion trends

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A rare occurrence: the kids are staying still (in Red Light, Green Light)

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Future of engineers of Japan square off 

But there are differences. Overall, the kids are calmer and more enthusiastic to participate than the 2014 bunch. Kids who previously attended VBS are now in JS and are actually helping as volunteers. There is more structure in extra fun time from the added rotation between activities, resulting in less free-for-all piggyback/sharks and minnows mayhem. Learning my lesson last year of overexertion, I am balancing myself between physical and science activities, including helping the straw rockets activity today. The kids flexed their inner engineers to design a straw rocket that could travel the furthest, but ultimately all ended up with the same optimal design at the end. Most of all, I’m learning how much I actually enjoyed serving with my sister last time and am missing that experience.

But I’m trying to shake this inner desire for familiarity with this nine-to-five schedule. Being one for details, I catch myself throughout the course of the day noticing differences between the 2014 and 2016 incarnations of the VBS. 2014 left such an overwhelmingly positive impression on me that I catch myself almost longing for the way things were doing “last time”. But God has been regularly reminding me of how he especially called this year’s unique team for an equally unique VBS. Already our impact is clear; parents at Linda and Sharon’s seminars commented how the kids come home each day eagerly awaiting the next day. And the bonds among our team members are apparent, whether we’re enjoying ice cream post-EFT or having a “write-off” to see if Kent really had the best print writing. It’s more and more clear that I wouldn’t have this year’s trip any other way other than the way God intended it to be.